File Serving, Continued
With this configuration, I was able to use the device as designed and its functionality was virtually identical to the behavior of the software application supplied with the WMA that I described in my review of the WMA100. The only difference I noticed was when using a PC as a server, there's a configuration server running on the PC for tying music to slide shows, selecting folders to serve, etc. This configuration server does not exist on the WMG.
While the demonstration videos, pictures and music on the WMG are all very nice, to really use the box, you need to put your own content on it. As I noted earlier, Samba is used as the WMG's network file server. So I thought it would be easy to mount the WMG's file shares with various computers on my home network since they can all use SMB network file systems. Access to the WMG's shares was accomplished without issue on my Windows XP laptop, but I had problems when I tried my other systems.
My first unsuccessful attempt was on my Macintosh OS X computer. When I went to browse the network, the WMG showed up with a name of UAP using a MYGROUP domain. Accessing UAP revealed three shares with names like "samba ide sha". But attempts to mount the shares always came back with an error indicating that the specified share could not be found. Trying the same operation on a couple of different Windows 98 machines resulted in the same type of error.
I suspected that the problem was the length of the share name. Both the OS X box and the Windows boxes showed the same name, but I suspected that the last part of the name was really "share" instead of "sha". I'm really no SMB expert (to put it mildly), but after a bit of frustrating fiddling around, I was finally able to manually type in the full, unclipped name of the share and mount it on both the Windows 98 systems and the OSX system. So that you don't have to go through the same thing, the three default shares are:
- samba ide share
- samba usb share-1
- samba usb share-2
I should note that while I was wrestling with this problem, I had consulted the documentation and found that there were three different ways listed to mount the shares, with advice that boiled down to try method one, if that doesn't work try method two, etc. None of the listed methods worked for me, but having three different methods to mount shares suggests that this is a problematic area for systems other than Windows XP.
Once I had the share mounted, it was simply a matter of navigating into a "media" sub-folder where there were directories for video, pictures and music where I deposited some of my pictures, videos and music. The pictures and videos displayed without problems and I enjoyed having a central repository of my videos that I could manage from any computer on the LAN.
When I tried playing music files I was pleased to see that my MP3 tags were now properly parsed! This meant that the Artist, Genre, and Album groups were populated, whereas when using the PC server, they were empty. But I found that I still had the "UNKNOWN FORMAT" error when playing music files that had album art embedded inside.
As I noted earlier, there is no ability to configure permissions for the WMG's network folders, so everyone can mount the shares with read and write privileges in the "media" directory. Depending on your network setup and the users on your network, this may or may not be an issue for you. But not having the ability to at least restrict write privileges is very dangerous, since all it would take is an inexperienced user (or a slip of the mouse) to wipe out or corrupt precious media files.
I also noticed that the mounted file share had directories (such as etc, usr, var - suspiciously similar to a Linux filesystem) other than the "media" directory that were visible when browsing via computer, but not via the WMA100. Even though these directories were read-only, it's probably not a great idea to expose them to the average user.